“Project Z” is one roller coaster of a ride!
It starts out as a couple driving an RV through the countryside. They are talking back and forth about relationship issues when the RV hits something. They pull to a stop and then … suddenly people start appearing out of nowhere – from the back of the RV, the side of the road. It’s a film crew, and we have been watching them act out and record a scene from a student movie they are making.
The conversation reveals the usual conflict between members of the team, the director’s need to maintain control, and references to established film-makers, their techniques and styles. There’s a lot of psychological talk about deep meanings and impressions to be left on the audience, but it is a zombie movie.
From this point on, we are following the movie crew as they travel to the location of a “haunted hotel” where more action will be filmed. Along the way, mysterious meteors rain down on the area they are passing through, and strange things begin to happen.
Writer/director Henrik Martin Dahlsbakken (“The Outlaws”) must have had fun running this crew of actors through their confusing “on again, off again” movie acting vs. real life (but still acting) antics. His inclusion of everyday issues, including a long distance romantic breakup, temperamental actors, and an insecure director, are spot on. He keeps you guessing whether what you’re seeing is the film crew at work, or horrifying events overtaking them as they work.
There is a particularly amusing scene in which Dennis (Dennis Storhei – “The 13th Warrior”), as an out of work actor playing a zombie housemaid, speaks frankly to a camera about his desire to be part of the cast of an upcoming Netflix series. His portrayal of himself is excellent. But then he proceeds to do an audition of the character, and his acting is terrible. A priceless vignette. And not the best one Storhei does.
We get some beautifully framed shots of the northern Norwegian mountains, a creepy hotel, first-person POV while running through a forest and in the flashlight-lit basement of the aforementioned hotel. Oh, and an interesting extraterrestrial along the way.
Fans of movies who have their tongues firmly planted in their cheeks, and enjoy skewering the whole film-making zeitgeist, will love this “epic.”
Writer/Director: Henrik Martin Dahlsbakken
Producer: Henrik Martin Dahlsbakken
Cinematographer: Oskar Dahlsbakken
Editor: Kalle Doniselli Gulbrandsen
Music: Johannes Ringen
Iben: Iben Akerley
Arthur: Arthur Berning
Alex: Alexandra Gjerpen
Dennis: Dennis Storhei
Olec: Ole Christoffer Ertvaag
Runtime: One hour, 29 minutes
Availability: In theaters Nov. 3, 2023
Norwegian/English, with English subtitles
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